KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – For 50 years, the UT football team has taken Shield-Watkins Field at Neyland Stadium in high style. The Pride of the Southland marching band forms a T, then the formation opens up and the big orange romps onto the gridiron with more than 100,000 fans cheering along.
UT football’s public address announcer Jeff Jarnigan says the tradition started in 1965, then the Vols used to enter the field from the 50 yard line.
“I know Coach Dickey at the time had some concerns about the team starting on that sideline and coming across the visitor sideline. They were worried about conflicts in that area,” said Jarnigan.
He says the coach met with the band director to come up with a creative way to enter.
“He said, ‘How can we get from this side to that side?’ and so they came up with forming the Power T,” said Jarnigan.
Current Pride of the Southland Band director Don Ryder says each game, he hopes the T is magical. He says the pressure is on to make sure it opens correctly.
“We run at such a tight schedule we try to open it perfectly with three on the clock that the team runs out,” said Ryder.
UT head majorette Maggie Belew says being on the field as the traditional T forms is the most exciting part of the pregame activities.
The T changed directions in the 1980s because the locker room moved.
The Vols take on the Western Carolina Catamounts on Saturday at home. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.